TZL: How has COVID-19 affected your business on a daily basis? TK: Working from home has certainly been an adjustment. Our teams have been using Teams, Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, and other technology to stay connected. Communication has been crucial during these days. Our teams meet on a daily basis in the mornings to discuss action items and deadlines. Of course, as expected with the uncertainty of the economy, some projects have gone on a temporary hold, and/or have slowed progress. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. TK: We’re currently working on succession planning. Darin and I are sole owners and we’re looking at offering financial incentives for additional principals. It’s a difficult business to learn and we’re often the “experts in the room,” so training and mentoring is a big part of succession planning. We recently promoted two people to vice president positions. One woman was instrumental in raising awareness about the firm and we wanted to reward her for that. Another staff member made a real difference in running one of our satellite firms in San Antonio. That office is not just growing, but flourishing. We wanted him to know we recognized what he was doing and promoted him accordingly. There are several other people on the edge and staff know that opportunity exists. That provides motivation and professional fulfillment. “We do a lot to train and mentor our project managers. We don’t tend to hire many people from outside of the firm, but rather grow the people we have and have them move up. They know the TZL: Does your firm work closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, See VISION, page 8 firm and understand what it takes to be a good manager.”
is more focused on economics. In January of 2019, we started working on strategic planning. We’re closely examining where we want to focus and grow, and regions we want to be in. We’re doing that together. “We’re pretty diverse. It’s a niche profession so we work with many foreign students in university programs and support them in getting their visas.” TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? TK: Much like the working “on” versus working “in” business question, Darin and I are a little different here. I tend to separate the two. My wife has no desire to work in the design business and I don’t talk about it too much at home. That said, she’s supportive of whatever I do and that accounts for a lot. For Darin, it’s different because his son works for our firm. Darin also grew up working in a family business, so it’s nothing new for him to combine work and family life. TZL: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are potential disruptors across all industries. Is your firm exploring how to incorporate these technologies into providing improved services for clients? TK: We’re committed to keeping up with changing and emerging technologies. Everything we do is computer-based. We do 3D visualization and use Revit. We work with many AEC firms that use a great deal of high-end technology and as part of their design team, we need to be up to speed. We’re open to AI for areas that tend to be more labor intensive on the administrative end – the drudge work so to speak. TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? TK: I would strongly agree with this statement. We do a lot to train and mentor our project managers. We don’t tend to hire many people from outside of the firm, but rather grow the people we have and have them move up. They know the firm and understand what it takes to be a good manager.
HEADQUARTERS: Houston, TX NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 40 YEAR FOUNDED: 1991 OFFICE LOCATIONS: ❚ ❚ Houston, TX ❚ ❚ San Antonio, TX ❚ ❚ Indianapolis, IN MARKETS: ❚ ❚ K-12 ❚ ❚ Higher education ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ Management districts ❚ ❚ MUDs ❚ ❚ Planned communities ❚ ❚ Offices ❚ ❚ Mixed-use ❚ ❚ Podium level ❚ ❚ Municipal ❚ ❚ Recreational centers ❚ ❚ Parks ❚ ❚ Worship PORTFOLIO: More than 3,000 projects NUMBER OF LEED-CERTIFIED PROJECTS: 41 PHILOSOPHY: Careful balance of opposites – where the left brain meets the right brain. SOME PERKS: Half-day Fridays, a competitive benefits package, collaborative culture, and an endless supply of coffee.
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MAY 4, 2020, ISSUE 1343
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